CLEVELAND -- I had just landed on a connecting flight Monday night, when I turned my phone on and received a text message from Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub.
It read: "I don't know about you, but today brought back some bad memories.''
Immediately, I understood. Tony and I -- and three other Red Sox beat writers -- had been in New York on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and flown out of Laguaradia at about 8:30 a.m., one of the last planes to depart before the first plane hit the World Trade Center that Tuesday morning, en route to Tampa where the Red Sox were scheduled to begin a series that night.
That day, in mid-air, we were told of the attacks and informed that we were landing in Atlanta. The five of us spent the night there, and the next day, commandeered a van to drive home. We drove together for the better part of the next two days, back to New England, back to a world that had been changed forever.
I thought of that day and those experiences a lot Monday. Once again, a horrific attack had killed and injured innocent people, though thankfully, Monday's carnage wasn't nearly as widespread as on 9/11.
Still, there were eerie parallels. Once again, I was working away from home. And once again, there was the dread and uncertainty of air travel.
On Monday, at the time of the explosions near the Boston Marathon finish line, I was preparing to tape a TV segment at Fenway, with Jessica Moran for the
6 p.m. SportsNet Central 6 p.m. show on CSN.
As we did the segment, we could hear sirens in the area, but regarded those as typical for a Marathon day. Probably police with crowd control, or medical personnel helping some exhausted or dehydrated runners at the end of the race, I thought.
I had a flight scheduled at 6:25 out of Logan and had some time to kill after finishing my TV responsibilities, so I headed a block from Fenway to grab a late lunch at the Citizen Public House on Boylston St, one block from the ballpark.
The restaurant was, predictably, mobbed with people who had attended the game, or the finish of the race, or both. Around the bar, TVs were tuned to coverage of the race when a graphic revealed that an explosion had taken place near the finish line.
At the time, we had no idea of the devastation it caused. Talk was of how disappointing it must have been for the runners who weren't being allowed to finish a race for which they had trained so hard and so long.
My daughter, a teacher in New Jersey, called, but because the restaurant was crowded and noisy, I didn't try to answer, figuring I would call her back in an hour or so when I left for the airport. But when I didn't answer, she sent me a text message: "Going into doctor's appointment, but just calling to make sure you're alright.''
That seemed odd, I thought. And then the details began showing up on the screen, with initial reports of two dead and hundreds injured. The enormity of
it was beginning to sink in. Here I was, a mile or so from the explosions, blissfully unaware of the circumstances, as was just about everyone else in the restaurant.
There was no panic, no mass exodus.
Later, my daughter told me she had picked up her phone to find a a dozen or so missed calls and texts from friends, all of them wondering about my well-being. My daughter's friends know that I cover the Red Sox and knew of the (relative) proximity of the race to Fenway.
Strangely, the further I got from the ballpark, the more aware I became of the gravity of what had happened nearby. Radio reports had Logan at a ground stop -- no air traffic in or out -- but knowing how difficult (impossible?) it might be to reschedule a flight for Tuesday morning to Cleveland, I headed to the airport.
There, the atmosphere was almost unchanged. I was asked to pop open my trunk before entering the parking garage -- same as always. I arrived at the check-in counter to find my flight to Chicago, with a connection to Cleveland, was scheduled to depart on time.
Security lines, understandably, moved slowly, but efficiently. At the gate, passengers watched CNN coverage of the aftermath and President Obama's
speech. Many in the area wore Boston Athletic Associate windbreakers and had obviously run -- and finished -- race before the horror began.
I got up from my seat to check on the flight's status and hadn't wandered more than 10 feet when an edgy fellow passenger pointed to my carry-on bag and asked: "Is that your bag?''
Following a slight delay and a brief mechanichal issue, we departed Logan. It was, remarkably, all rather routine.
As we sat on the tarmac, I scrolled thought Facebook. In response to calls and texts, I had posted a status update, letting everyone know that I was fine and headed out on a flight. The status was "liked'' by family as far away as Arizona and California, friends from as far back as high school and college and former colleagues from past jobs.
I thought to myself how nice it would have been to have had Facebook on 9/11.
In this job, flying is second nature. I take somewhere between 60-70 flights per year, seldom giving it a second thought. For me, flying is almost as common as getting on a bus or subway to commute to work. It's just that my job "commutes'' are a bit longer.
So I settled in for the first of two flights, unsure of whether it was a good thing that I was leaving Boston -- away from the horror, yes, but also away from home.
Bad memories, indeed, Tony.